Athletics

Men's Soccer Set For Another NESCAC Title Run

Contact: Ben Badua

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Noon
Spencer Noon '13 set the career points (83) and goals (35) record last season

SEASON IN REVIEW
Amassing a 16-2-2 record en route to its second NESCAC Championship, the Amherst men’s soccer team’s season came to disappointing end in 2011 with a 2-1 loss to regional rival Stevens in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Having not advanced past the sectional semifinals since 2008, the Lord Jeffs still enter this year’s campaign with something to prove, despite posting a 41-8-7 record over the last three seasons.

FORWARDS
With returners accounting for 49 of the team’s league-leading 50 goals last season, Amherst should have plenty of firepower in 2012. Headlining the Jeffs’ talented corps of attackers is reining NESCAC Player of the Year Spencer Noon ’13, who led the conference in points (35) and goals (15). Upping his goal total in each of the last three years, Noon is already the program’s leader in career points (83) and markers (35) and should once again keep opposing defenders on their heels.

Rejoining the squad in 2011 after a two-year mandatory military service stint in his native South Korea, Jae Heo ’14 picked up right where he left off after a stellar first year, showing little signs of rust as he finished tied for second in the conference in points (22) and goals (9) en route to second-team all-league honors.

Also back in the fold is Alejandro Sucre ’13, who enjoyed a breakout season that warranted second-team All-NESCAC recognition. Starting just five games as a sophomore, Sucre got the starting nod in all 20 of the team’s contests last year and did not disappoint, putting up career numbers while finishing among the conference’s leaders in points (17) and goals (6).

Hoping to give Jeffs some added depth up top are Casey McNamara ’13 and James Mooney ’13E. Playing an important reserve role a year ago, McNamara often gave Amherst a spark off the bench, registering 12 points on four goals and four assists. A second-team all-league pick in 2010, Mooney sat out last season due to injury, but carries 44 points and 18 goals into this season and could compete for time at perhaps the team’s deepest position.

“We have a lot of talented individual attacking players,” said head coach Justin Serpone. “On paper it’s a really good group, but we understand that at the beginning of the season, everybody starts with zero goals. With that in mind, I think one thing we can improve on is our finishing rate and if we do that we could be very good.”

Fikke2
Max Fikke '14 finished last season tied for first in the NESCAC in assists (7)

MIDFIELDERS
Anchoring Amherst’s efforts in the middle of the pitch are several capable veterans who could once again play an important role in the Jeffs’ transition game. Appearing in 14 contests as a first year, Brendan Caslin ’14 was a staple in the squad’s starting lineup last season, getting the nod in 17 of the team’s 20 games and has the potential to make another significant jump in his development. Senior Federico Sucre has also quietly become a consistent contributor, coming on strong down the stretch with 10 of his 15 points coming during the team’s 2011 postseason run.

Max Fikke ’14, who started 11 of his 19 appearances a year ago, played an integral role in helping Amherst transition from defense to offense, closing out the season tied for first in the conference in assists (7), while Milton Rico ’15 will also vie for playing time after getting into each of the team’s 20 games as a first year.

“It’s a very competitive group,” Serpone said. “The key will be making the most out of everyone’s minutes because it’s a deep pool of players. We know we have guys that can score goals and our midfielders have to continue to do a great job of getting us into the attacking third. Last year we had six of the top eight assist leaders in the league which means we’re being creative offensively and that’s something we’ll look to continue to do.”

DEFENSE
Finishing in the middle of the conference pack in goals allowed last season, Amherst will look to a trio of experienced defenders to stabilize its backline as it begins its NESCAC title defense in one of the nation’s most competitive leagues. A first-team all-conference selection last season, co-captain Chris Lerner ’13 will look to set the tone for Amherst’s defenders, having started each of the team’s 39 games since 2010, while sitting tied for the conference lead with seven assists last season.

Julien Aoyama ’14, who has started 33 of his last 37 appearances, will also help shoulder the defensive burden alongside Ben Norton ’14 who started all but one of his 19 appearances in 2011. Caslin, Bubba Van Wie ’15, Gabriel Wirz ’15 and Chris Nelson ’13 could also compete for time in the back as the Jeffs try to cope with the loss of Sam Kaplan ’12.

Aoyama
Julien Aoyama '14 will help anchor the Jeffs'
defensive efforts in 2012

“I think the unheralded member of this group is Julien Aoyama,” said Serpone. “Julien is one of the most versatile players on the team as he can play forward, midfield and outside back. I think he’s going to pop up in a lot of different positions this year and create a ton of trouble for other teams.”

With the graduation of perhaps the program’s most decorated goalkeeper in Lennard Kovacs ’12 also looming, Amherst must look to first year Thomas Bull and sophomore Matt Tower to help fill the void in net.

SEASON OUTLOOK
With all but three of its starters from 2011 returning, Amherst should once again field a competitive team in one of the nation’s toughest conferences. Depth at forward and midfield will help keep an often explosive attack churning, while a trio of veteran backs will look to improve upon last year’s showing, especially playing in front of a new goalkeeper.

“We had a strong year last year, but it’s going to be harder this time around,” said Serpone. “We play in arguably the country’s best conference and making the NESCAC Tournament isn’t a birthright. Everyone, from our first years to all-league players, are fighting for a spot as we try to piece together the best team that we can.”